Notes by the Way
From Mosley to Cripps
Capitalism’s crises, and the efforts of reformist politicians to grapple with them, produce curious feats of political tight-rope walking, coat-turning, and somersaulting. In 1931 Sir Oswald Mosley and his associates, including Mr. W. J. Brown, rebelled against the Labour Party leadership, and announced the formation of a New Party, with a new policy. Their argument was that critical times demanded drastic remedies. Socialism must be put into cold storage—”questions of the ultimate goal of society are excluded by the very urgency of the problem which confronts us” (“A National Policy,” published by the Mosley Group). It will be observed that the argument used by Mosley and Brown then is identical with that being used by Sir Stafford Cripps. But why aren’t Mosley and Brown backing Cripps? Sir Oswald Mosley is now a Fascist, and finds himself quite out of step with his old associates. He says that compulsory military training in this country is not necessary, and that “it was being imposed because those who had capital—about £300,000,000—invested in Eastern European countries feared for its safety.” (From a speech at Dalston, May 7th, reported in Times, May 8th, 1939.)
Mr. W. J. Brown, on the other hand, is all for conscription, and is not deterred by the argument that war for Britain means war for capitalist Britain. Speaking in support of conscription at the Conference of the Civil Service Clerical Association, Mr. Brown said: “I hold that the survival in the world even of Chamberlain’s Britain is worth a war, to ensure that it does not go under.” (Daily Telegraph, May 12th, 1939.)
Sir Stafford Cripps finds himself using the Mosley-Brown argument of 1931, but is at daggers-drawn with both of them. He wants foreign alliances against Fascism, but he thinks that the urgent task of the moment is to get rid of the Chamberlain National Government — hence the Popular Front campaign. Speaking at the Labour Party Conference in May last, where he was voted down heavily, he declared that “a Great Britain without a National Government is the Mecca of everyone in this Conference.” (Daily Telegraph, May 30th, 1939.) He thinks that the National Government under Chamberlain represents something nearly as bad as Fascism; but he did not always think that way. In November, 1935, he said of the Baldwin National Government, that it had “done quite well for a capitalist Covernment. . . . There is really very little case at all for an alternative Government within the capitalist system. . . .” (Quoted in “Unity, True or Sham,” Labour Party, 1d.)
That is how they stand at the moment. Where will they be in a few years’ time? Sir Stafford’s brother, Colonel the Hon. F. H. Cripps, in an article in the Evening Standard (May 30th), says that Lord Baldwin in 1930 tipped Sir Stafford as “a future Conservative Prime Minister.” Who knows? Or will it be Brown or Mosley ?
Wages Under Fascism
The Labour Party and Trade Unions and, latterly, the Conservative Press, use the argument that under Fascism wages are heavily and continuously reduced. The Communists, before their new-found enthusiasm for democratic capitalism, used to say the same about wages here. In both cases they never explain how it is possible for an originally low standard of living to be continuously reduced by large amounts year after year. Either the original level must have been very high, or alternatively, the present generation must be rapidly dying of starvation. The truth is that the changes have been smaller in amount than the over-zealous propagandists would have us believe, and it is not, in the long run, useful to employ fallacious arguments against Fascism. The case founded on fact is quite strong enough, anyway. Capitalists, whether under Fascism or democracy, are interested in making profits, and to do so they seek to force wages to the lowest possible level, but even the greed for profits does not permanently blind them to the fact that the worker cannot work efficiently if grossly underfed. Moreover, the forces which from time to time enable the workers to secure upward adjustments of wages, operate under Fascist capitalism as well as in the democracies. One of these is the shortage of labour, which has recently become very much evident, particularly in Germany. Under the influence of that shortage German workers have been able to get wage increases, even in spite of the efforts of the Government to keep wages down and the destruction of Trade Unionism. A similar situation of labour shortage existed in Great Britain during the war, and the method of evasion is exactly the same. Dr. Mansfield, an official of the Ministry of Labour in Germany, an article by whom is summarised in the Manchester Guardian (June 1st, 1939), “reveals that in many industries the official restrictions on wages have been dodged by employers competing for labour. Bonuses, expenses, holiday contribu¬tions, etc., are being offered to entice workers from other firms.”
The Manchester Guardian says that this has become so prevalent that, in the words of Dr. Mansfield, “the State has temporarily lost control of wages and incomes.”
The German authorities have tried to fix maximum wages, but haphazard attempts to enforce them have “caused much tension.” It is safe to say that, so long as the labour shortage continues, the efforts of the Government will continue to be ineffectual since the employers themselves, or many of them, will have an interest in evading the law. Dr. Mansfield also mentions the fact that the increase in the hours of work has not been a success from the employers’ point of view. Output did not increase proportionately, and there was a rapid increase in illness. As a result of this and the accompanying unrest, the authorities have reduced overtime in many factories, and the official organ of the Nazi Labour Front “has proclaimed the eight-hour day as the most likely measure to keep up a steady output in most industries.”
The above relates to a fairly recent tendency.
It is much more difficult to say what has been the total result of Fascism, so far as wages are concerned. Most reports say unhesitatingly that wage levels as a whole are lower, but one competent observer, Mr. C. W. Guillebaud, in his detailed inquiry, “The Economic Recovery of Germany,” thinks that the standard of living of the German workers has been rising in recent years, and is above the level of 1929. All such estimates must be received with caution, because the subject itself is a difficult one, which does not lend itself to simple sweeping generalisations, but, at least, we can reject as false the view that democratic capitalism, compared with Fascism, is working class prosperity compared with destitution.
Another interesting news item relates to Italy. Early in March the Government ordered wage increases ranging from 5 per cent. to 10 per cent., and The Times correspondent in Rome reported that “this general rise in wages, coming so suddenly, is a bitter pill for employers.” (Times, March 9th.)
Doubtless, the wage increase was given largely, if not entirely, to meet past increases in the cost of living—which shows once more how capitalist economic laws operate, Fascism or no Fascism.
Loud Cheers in the House of Commons
In the official declarations of the Liberals, the Labour Party and the Conservatives over a period of years will be found definite promises to abolish unemployment within the capitalist system, or at least to reduce it to small proportions. Each party in opposition has savagely and indignantly denounced the other parties when in power for failing to fulfil their pledges regarding unemployment. On June 5th occurred a little incident which shows just how little the M.P.s themselves believe in the possibility of abolishing unemployment under capitalism. The following is from a report of Parliamentary proceedings, published in the News Chronicle (June 6th, 1939).
“With his customary cheerfulness Mr. Ernest Brown, who has now performed the feat of being Minister of Labour for four years, announced the fall of 152,112 in the number of unemployed in the House of Commons last night.
Members cheered and cheered again when he added that the total figure was now below a million and a half—1,492,281.”
Just think of it. They actually cheered because the number of unemployed is ONLY 1 millions—representing, with their families, from 3 to 4 million men, women and children of prosperous Britain!
Why the League of Nations Failed. A Laughable Capitalist Explanation
Three-quarters of a century ago Marx poked fun at the sentimentally-minded capitalist reformers who wanted to keep capitalism intact, but purify it by abolishing its inevitable effects. We have them with us still, Sir Arthur Salter, in “Security: Can we Retrieve It?” sets out to explain, among other things, that the League of Nations was not foredoomed to failure, “its failures were largely due to accident.” The phrase here quoted is from a long review of Salter’s book, written by Mr. J. L. Hammond (Manchester Guardian, May 16th, 1939). What were these “accidents”? The “first bad accident” was the “fall of the franc,” which “brought Poincaré back to power in France.”
The second bad accident was “the economic depression of 1929 and the financial crisis of 1931.” This crisis destroyed the hopes that had been based on the “new spirit of co-operation.” It produced the National Government in Great Britain, and also the Nazi regime in Germany, which owes its success “to a combination of political resentment and economic distress. Sir Arthur Salter thinks that neither would have sufficed without the other.”
In short, if only capitalism had not produced a series of economic crises and international tensions resulting from commercial rivalries, then the League would not have been hit by these “accidents,” and would have succeeded. And if, of course, capitalism in future could be pruned of its capacity for causing never-ending economic poverty and class-conflict at home and fierce international conflicts of interests abroad, then the League would succeed. What could be clearer than that? Pigs could fly if they had wings, only then they wouldn’t be pigs. Capitalism would be fine if only it weren’t capitalism, but then there wouldn’t be any need for a League of Nations.
From Marx to “Financial Times”
In its editorial of May 9th, 1939, the Financial Times expresses the concern felt by the capitalists at the threatened scarcity of workers—”in many skilled trades connected directly and indirectly with rearmament the demand for labour has already out¬run supply.”
In view of the fact that the registered unem¬ployed still number nearly If millions, or 11.4 per cent., it might be thought that there can, so far, be no question of a shortage.
The Financial Times says, however, that: —
“The normal turnover of labour in the various industries accounts for a short-term unemployment of about 6 to 8 per cent. of the working population, whereas about 4 per cent. has in the recent past been attributable to those affected by structural changes in industry, mostly in the depressed areas. Unless the latter can be found alternative occupation—and this may be by no means easy—the limits of full employment are fairly closely reached when the numbers of unemployed are within 10 to 12 per cent. of the total employable population.”
The conclusion drawn is that we are “getting within close limits of the pool of reserves normally required for the adequate functioning of labour movement inwards and outwards.”
What is, however, more interesting is the following : —
“ . . the unemployed who have presented a harassing social problem to every Government in the post-war period now appear in the guise of an invaluable reserve of labour supply.”
Note that phrase, “invaluable reserve of labour supply.” It exactly sums up what Marx said about three-quarters of a century ago concerning the attitude of the capitalist to the unemployed.
After explaining why capitalism necessarily produces unemployment, Marx continued: —
“But if a surplus working-class population is a necessary product of accumulation, or of the development of wealth upon a capitalist basis, on the other hand this over-population becomes a lever promoting capitalists accumulation and is indeed a necessary condition of the existence of the capitalist method of production. It forms an available industrial reserve army, which belongs to capital no less absolutely than if the capitalists had bred the members of this army at their own cost. For its own varying needs in the way of self-expansion, capital creates an ever-ready supply of human material fit for exploitation, and does so independently of the actual increase in population.”—(“Capital,” Vol. 1, page 698. Allen & Unwin Edition.)
What King George Told the Americans
A correspondent of the News Chronicle in U.S.A. reports the following conversation between King George VI and the U.S. Secretary of Com¬merce, Mr. Hopkins: —
“There is another Washington story about what the King said to Secretary of Commerce Hopkins when the subject of social reform was being discussed. After Hopkins had explained what was being done here, the King amiably told him, ‘We did many of these things in England much earlier than you have. The capitalists have retained control in America longer than they did in my country.’”— (News-Chronicle, June 16th, 1939.)
King George is hopelessly wrong about his facts, but are we to conclude from his remark that he thinks it would be a good thing if the capitalists had been ousted ?
Catholic Bishop Condemns Rebellion in Ireland, Not in Spain
Those who recall the support given by the bulk of the Catholic dignitaries to the Franco rebellion against the constitutionally-elected Government of Spain will read with surprise a speech made by the Bishop of Ross, Monsignor Casey, at Rosscarberry, County Cork, on May 7th, 1939.
“Saint Paul lays down very clearly the duties of the citizen towards the Government of the country. He tells us that all power comes from God, and that unlawful resistance to the lawfully appointed Government cannot be done without incurring a great crime. You have the privilege of appointing those who are to rule over you. You did so, and any person who resists the Government you have elected, resists it by murder, burning and looting of property, by assault and other violent means.
All such persons, and all who aid or support them, are guilty of great sin before God.”—(Dublin Evening Mail, May 8th, 1939.)
Far from denouncing Franco as criminal and sinner, we find the Pope,, on June 11th, receiving 200 Franco soldiers and thanking them for defending “the faith and civilisation” of Spain. (Manchester Guardian, June 12th).
The “Daily Mail” Tells all About the Russian Parliament
The Daily Mail, which used to be so hostile to everything Bolshevik has changed its tune now that it badly wants the Anglo-Russian pact to go through. One change is the publication of articles on Russia, friendly in tone. One such article (June 1st, 1939) is called “Yes, there is a Parliament in Russia.” It tells of the electoral system and the work of the Russian Parliament; all about the universal, equal, direct suffrage, secret ballot, etc., etc. Well, not quite all, for it omits entirely to mention that the elections are run on totalitarian lines, only the Communist Party being allowed to exist and no opposition candidates permitted.
The omission must have been accidental: or would it perhaps be tactically unwise to spoil the “democratic” alliance by mentioning such things?
Who Benefits from Empire?
The following is from an article on French Morocco, in the Manchester Guardian (May 15th, 1939). “Not that Morocco has ‘paid’ France as a nation; on the contrary, the cost to the French State has been very great. But occupation has obviously paid the French banks to judge by a comparison of their offices with those of their British competitors; it has paid the French steel companies, who supply the Moroccan railways, and despite the lack of mining concessions it has paid the French mining companies who provided the machinery and direction for the State mines. In a word, Morocco—like other colonies—has provided out-relief for the investing classes. It has, perhaps, profited the 300,000 French people who have settled in Morocco since the war. It has not profited the Frenchman who stayed at home, but it has given him a great achievement—and presumably, that is worth paying for.”
The National Income in Russia and India
The issue of the Economist for June 10th, 1939, reviews two books, one by Mr. Colin Clark, on the Russian national income (“A Critique of Russian Statistics,” Macmillan, 6s.), and the other by Mr. V. K. R. V. Rao (” India’s National Income,” Allen & Unwin, 6s.).
The estimated national income in Russia in 1937 was £4,637,000,000—almost identical with the estimated national income of Great Britain in the same year. The population of Russia is, however, nearly four times as great, so that the average per head of the population is about £28 in Russia and £100 in Great Britain.
As regards the upward movement of the aggregrate national income in Russia, the Economist, after making certain adjustments for armament expenditure and revised population figures, concludes that in 1928 the amount available per head of the population was rather smaller than in Czarist days.
“Between 1928 and 1934 the aggregate national income rose by 16 per cent. whilst the population only increased by 8 per cent. But this increase was entirely due to the expansion of industry. The supply of meat, milk and eggs was halved; that of other foods was barely keeping pace with the increase in population.”
Between 1934 and 1937 the aggregate income has increased more rapidly, although much of the increase has been swallowed up in armaments.
“If defence expenditure is assumed to have trebled in the three years, living conditions might have improved to the extent of 5 or 10 per cent. “
The book on India discloses an appalling condition after long years of British rule. The national income
“works out to a little more than a rupee (1s. 6d.) a day for a family of five, and the figure includes the incomes of both the millionaire and the manual labourer.”
The mass of the Indian population
“live in hovels, have only a few clothes, know no furniture, rarely drink milk, hardly ever eat meat or fruit or other expensive, though nutritious, items of diet.”
The Indian national income is estimated to be increasing very slowly, by about 1 per cent, per annum.
With regard to all estimates of the amount and increase of national income, it is hardly necessary to remark that the mass of the population are not benefited by an increase in the total production of wealth if the additional amount goes to benefit the privileged minority or is wasted in armaments.
Labour M.P. Does Not Like German Trading Methods
During a debate on the Government’s foreign trade policy, in the House of Commons, on June 9th, one Labour M.P., Mr. W. G. Cove (Aberavon) accused another Labour M.P., Mr. E. Shinwell (Seaham, Durham) of wanting “economic war with Germany,” “sheer, naked war.” (Hansard, June 9th, Col. 812.)
Hard words, but certainly justified, as can be seen from the following, which are typical passages in Mr. Shinwell’s speech: —
“. . . Clearly the Government must make up their minds what is their objective in relation to foreign trade. Is it to recapture, our lost markets, no matter where they are …. or are we to allow Germany, by the employment of questionable devices, to prevent this country from re-establishing herself in foreign markets?”
The Government spokesman had said that this country must get its share of the Rumanian and other Balkan markets. Mr. Shinwell said: —
“. . . the right hon. gentleman must do more than that. He must obtain from those markets the greatest possible share, irrespective of the claims of other countries; otherwise our export trade cannot prosper. There is no half-way house. We must go forward.”
And again : —
“If Germany will persist in using devices which adversely affect our foreign trade, we must, for our own protection, employ discriminating devices, whether they are regarded as economic war or not. On the other hand, if Germany will refrain fromemploying questionable devices of that kind, and if Germany will play the game …. it is obviously all to the good that we should assist Germany to maintain her economic position and even to improve it.”
There is only one thing more dangerous than a reformist movement which is passive and quiescent all round, that is, one which develops aggressive tendencies and wants to be more assertive about capitalist foreign interests than the capitalists them¬selves.
News is still awaited as to the way Goebbels, Goering and Hitler received Mr. Shinwell’s appeal to them “to play the game.” Play the game, you cads!